(THE ROCKAWAYS) – In Belle Harbor they hold their heroes in high regard near the end of Beach 130th St.
It’s always been a tight knit community. Yet in the two months since the storm unleashed its wrath this area within the Rockaways has become much closer in the aftermath of Sandy.
However, this Christmas Eve the area around 130 Beach Street is coping with a new tragedy, the passing of former city lifeguard Dylan Smith. The 23-year-old was found Sunday floating near his surfboard at a beach community in Rincon, Puerto Rico.
“I feel bad for the family, especially at this time, Christmas time and I feel sorry for the family and friends that really knew him,” said Christine Lathan.
On the night of October 29th as Sandy was making landfall many homes succumbed to flooding and flames, even the club that Smith worked at fell victim. A burnt canopy and charred remains it’s only remnants. Yet as fires engulfed parts of the neighborhood and the storm surge smothered the rest of it, Smith did the unimaginable, he grabbed his surfboard and paddled the rough waters — not to evacuate but rather help.
In all Smith saved six lives.
“I gave him a hug the next day and said, Dylan, I’m really proud of you,” said family friend Michael Light as he recounted the unselfish act and adding, “I said I wasn’t surprised it was you and he said, ‘Ah it was no big deal Mike, he was very humble.”
Smith was an angel on a surfboard.
“He was an inspiration. He kept us safe on the beaches, he kept us safe that night during the storm and we know that his memory is going to live on in all the people in Rockaways and all of the people he’s helped,” said Christine an area resident.
The surfing trip to Puerto Rico was to be an eacape for Smith and and it comes only weeks after People magazine acknowledged him as one of its Heroes for 2012, “You probably couldn’t fit enough space in the magazine to really put into perspective what he did that night,” said Light.
As his parents welcomed a steady procession of family and friends, they were all hoping that his body would be released by the medical examiner in Rincon, so that Dylan can be home on Christmas Day.